Friday, June 29, 2018
It may have been lost in all of the news surrounding Justice Kennedy’s retirement, but yesterday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, which presents the question:
“Whether Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410 (1979), which permits a sovereign state to be haled into another state’s courts without its consent, should be overruled.”
This is the case’s third trip to the Supreme Court.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Yesterday’s Supreme Court order list included grants of certiorari in several cases, including these three:
Sudan v. Harrison presents the question:
Whether the Second Circuit erred by holding — in direct conflict with the D.C., Fifth, and Seventh Circuits and in the face of an amicus brief from the United States — that plaintiffs suing a foreign state under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act may serve the foreign state under 28 U.S.C § 1608(a)(3) by mail addressed and dispatched to the head of the foreign state’s ministry of foreign affairs “via” or in “care of” the foreign state’s diplomatic mission in the United States, despite U.S. obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations to preserve mission inviolability.
Nutraceutical Corp. v. Lambert presents the question:
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f) establishes a fourteen-day deadline to file a petition for permission to appeal an order granting or denying class-action certification. On numerous occasions, this Court left undecided whether mandatory claim-processing rules, like Rule 23(f), are subject to equitable exceptions, because the issue was not raised below. See, e.g., Hamer v. Neighborhood Hous. Serv. of Chicago, 138 S. Ct. 13, 18 n.3, 22 (2017). That obstacle is not present here. The question presented is: did the Ninth Circuit err by holding that equitable exceptions apply to mandatory claim-processing rules and excusing a party’s failure to timely file a petition for permission to appeal, or a motion for reconsideration, within the Rule 23(f) deadline? As the Ninth Circuit acknowledged below, its decision conflicts with other United States Circuit Courts of Appeals that have considered this issue (the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits).
The question presented is: did the Ninth Circuit err by holding that equitable exceptions apply to mandatory claim-processing rules and excusing a party’s failure to timely file a petition for permission to appeal, or a motion for reconsideration, within the Rule 23(f) deadline?
And Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales, Inc. presents the question:
Whether the Federal Arbitration Act permits a court to decline to enforce an agreement delegating questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator if the court concludes the claim of arbitrability is “wholly groundless.”
June 26, 2018 in Class Actions, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, International/Comparative Law, Recent Decisions, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Supreme Court Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, June 14, 2018
SCOTUS decision in Animal Science: Deference to a foreign government’s statement about its own domestic law
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. (covered earlier here). Justice Ginsburg’s opinion for the Court begins:
When foreign law is relevant to a case instituted in a federal court, and the foreign government whose law is in contention submits an official statement on the meaning and interpretation of its domestic law, may the federal court look beyond that official statement? The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit answered generally “no,” ruling that federal courts are “bound to defer” to a foreign government’s construction of its own law, whenever that construction is “reasonable.” In re Vitamin C Antitrust Litigation, 837 F. 3d 175, 189 (2016).
We hold otherwise. A federal court should accord respectful consideration to a foreign government’s submission, but is not bound to accord conclusive effect to the foreign government’s statements. Instead, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1 instructs that, in determining foreign law, “the court may consider any relevant material or source . . . whether or not submitted by a party.” As “[t]he court’s determination must be treated as a ruling on a question of law,” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 44.1, the court “may engage in its own research and consider any relevant material thus found,” Advisory Committee’s 1966 Note on Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 44.1, 28 U. S. C. App., p. 892 (hereinafter Advisory Committee’s Note). Because the Second Circuit ordered dismissal of this case on the ground that the foreign government’s statements could not be gainsaid, we vacate that court’s judgment and remand the case for further consideration.
[In the interest of full disclosure, I joined an amicus brief in this case on behalf of law professors in support of neither party. The brief urged the Supreme Court not to endorse the Second Circuit’s doctrine of abstention based on international comity. It didn’t.]
Monday, June 11, 2018
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh (covered earlier here). Justice Ginsburg authored the Court’s opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, Alito, Kagan and Gorsuch. From the introduction:
This case concerns the tolling rule first stated in American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U. S. 538 (1974). The Court held in American Pipe that the timely filing of a class action tolls the applicable statute of limitations for all persons encompassed by the class complaint. Where class-action status has been denied, the Court further ruled, members of the failed class could timely intervene as individual plaintiffs in the still-pending action, shorn of its class character. See id., at 544, 552–553. Later, in Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U. S. 345 (1983), the Court clarified American Pipe’s tolling rule: The rule is not dependent on intervening in or joining an existing suit; it applies as well to putative class members who, after denial of class certification, “prefer to bring an individual suit rather than intervene . . . once the economies of a class action [are] no longer available.” 462 U. S., at 350, 353–354 * * * .
The question presented in the case now before us: Upon denial of class certification, may a putative class member, in lieu of promptly joining an existing suit or promptly filing an individual action, commence a class action anew beyond the time allowed by the applicable statute of limitations? Our answer is no. American Pipe tolls the statute of limitations during the pendency of a putative class action, allowing unnamed class members to join the action individually or file individual claims if the class fails. But American Pipe does not permit the maintenance of a follow-on class action past expiration of the statute of limitations.
The opinion concludes:
The watchwords of American Pipe are efficiency and economy of litigation, a principal purpose of Rule 23 as well. Extending American Pipe tolling to successive class actions does not serve that purpose. The contrary rule, allowing no tolling for out-of-time class actions, will propel putative class representatives to file suit well within the limitation period and seek certification promptly. For all the above-stated reasons, it is the rule we adopt today: Time to file a class action falls outside the bounds of American Pipe.
Justice Sotomayor wrote a concurring opinion, which begins:
I agree with the Court that in cases governed by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA),15 U. S. C. §78u–4, like this one, a plaintiff who seeks to bring a successive class action may not rely on the tolling rule established by American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U. S. 538 (1974). I cannot, however, join the majority in going further by holding that the same is true for class actions not subject to the PSLRA.
Monday, June 4, 2018
Today the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision in Hughes v. United States (covered earlier here and here). The dispute between the litigants involved the defendant’s eligibility to seek a sentence reduction based on a retroactive lowering of the sentencing guidelines. Two of the three questions presented in the defendant’s cert petition, however, involved how to determine the precedential effect of Supreme Court decisions with no majority opinion—an inquiry that is typically assessed using the rule from Marks v. United States. Marks played an important role in Hughes because the key Supreme Court decision on the substantive sentencing question—Freeman v. United States—was a 4-1-4 split.
In today’s Hughes opinion, the Court declined to address broader Marks-related issues. From Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion:
To resolve these differences over the proper application of Marks and the proper interpretation of §3582(c)(2), the Court granted certiorari in the present case. 583 U. S. ___ (2017). The first two questions, relating to Marks, are as follows: (1) “Whether this Court’s decision in Marks means that the concurring opinion in a 4–1–4 decision represents the holding of the Court where neither the plurality’s reasoning nor the concurrence’s reasoning is a logical subset of the other”; and (2) “Whether, under Marks, the lower courts are bound by the four-Justice plurality opinion in Freeman, or, instead, by Justice Sotomayor’s separate concurring opinion with which all eight other Justices disagreed.” Pet. for Cert. i.
The third question is directed to the underlying statutory issue in this case, the substantive, sentencing issue the Court discussed in the three opinions issued in Freeman. That question is: “Whether, as the four-Justice plurality in Freeman concluded, a defendant who enters into a Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement is generally eligible for a sentence reduction if there is a later, retroactive amendment to the relevant Sentencing Guidelines range.” Pet. for Cert. ii.
Taking instruction from the cases decided in the wake of Freeman and the systemic concerns that have arisen in some Circuits, and considering as well the arguments of the parties as to question three, a majority of the Court in the instant case now can resolve the sentencing issue on its merits. So it will be unnecessary to consider questions one and two despite the extensive briefing and careful argument the parties presented to the Court concerning the proper application of Marks. The opinion that follows resolves the sentencing issue in this case; and, as well, it should give the necessary guidance to federal district courts and to the courts of appeals with respect to plea agreements of the kind presented here and in Freeman.
As to the substantive sentencing question in Hughes, Justice Kennedy writes:
To resolve the uncertainty that resulted from this Court’s divided decision in Freeman, the Court now holds that a sentence imposed pursuant to a Type-C agreement is “based on” the defendant’s Guidelines range so long as that range was part of the framework the district court relied on in imposing the sentence or accepting the agreement.
Justice Sotomayor writes a concurring opinion, and Chief Justice Roberts writes a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Thomas and Alito.
Monday, May 28, 2018
Last week the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis. Justice Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito. It begins:
Should employees and employers be allowed to agree that any disputes between them will be resolved through one-on-one arbitration? Or should employees always be permitted to bring their claims in class or collective actions, no matter what they agreed with their employers?
As a matter of policy these questions are surely debatable. But as a matter of law the answer is clear. In the Federal Arbitration Act, Congress has instructed federal courts to enforce arbitration agreements according to their terms—including terms providing for individualized proceedings. Nor can we agree with the employees’ suggestion that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) offers a conflicting command. It is this Court’s duty to interpret Congress’s statutes as a harmonious whole rather than at war with one another. And abiding that duty here leads to an unmistakable conclusion. The NLRA secures to employees rights to organize unions and bargain collectively, but it says nothing about how judges and arbitrators must try legal disputes that leave the workplace and enter the courtroom or arbitral forum.
Justice Ginsburg wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Here’s an excerpt from her introductory section:
Does the Federal Arbitration Act (Arbitration Act or FAA), 9 U. S. C. §1 et seq., permit employers to insist that their employees, whenever seeking redress for commonly experienced wage loss, go it alone, never mind the right secured to employees by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U. S. C. §151 et seq., “to engage in . . . concerted activities” for their “mutual aid or protection”? §157. The answer should be a resounding “No.”
In the NLRA and its forerunner, the Norris-LaGuardia Act (NLGA), 29 U. S. C. §101 et seq., Congress acted on an acute awareness: For workers striving to gain from their employers decent terms and conditions of employment, there is strength in numbers. A single employee, Congress understood, is disarmed in dealing with an employer. See NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U. S. 1, 33–34 (1937). The Court today subordinates employee-protective labor legislation to the Arbitration Act. In so doing, the Court forgets the labor market imbalance that gave rise to the NLGA and the NLRA, and ignores the destructive consequences of diminishing the right of employees “to band together in confronting an employer.” NLRB v. City Disposal Systems, Inc., 465 U. S. 822, 835 (1984).
Monday, May 21, 2018
SCOTUS Grants Cert in Jam v. International Finance Corporation: Immunity for International Organizations
Whether the International Organizations Immunities Act—which affords international organizations the “same immunity” from suit that foreign governments have, 22 U.S.C. § 288a(b)— confers the same immunity on such organizations as foreign governments have under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1602-11.
Monday, May 14, 2018
Four criminal defendants objected to being bound by full restraints during pretrial proceedings in their cases, but the District Court denied relief. On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the use of such restraints was unconstitutional, even though each of the four criminal cases had ended prior to its decision. The question presented is whether the appeals were saved from mootness either because the defendants sought “class-like relief” in a “functional class action,” or because the challenged practice was “capable of repetition, yet evading review.”
The Court rejected both theories and found that the case was moot. In conclusion, however, Chief Justice Roberts observed:
None of this is to say that those who wish to challenge the use of full physical restraints in the Southern District lack any avenue for relief. In the course of this litigation the parties have touched upon several possible options. See, e.g., Tr. of Oral Arg. 12 (indicating circumstances under which detainees could bring a civil suit). Because we hold this case moot, we take no position on the question.
Monday, April 30, 2018
Whether the Federal Arbitration Act forecloses a state-law interpretation of an arbitration agreement that would authorize class arbitration based solely on general language commonly used in arbitration agreements.
Whether, or in what circumstances, a cy pres award of class action proceeds that provides no direct relief to class members supports class certification and comports with the requirement that a settlement binding class members must be “fair, reasonable, and adequate.”
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a 7-2 decision in Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene’s Energy Group, LLC, covered earlier here. Justice Thomas’s majority opinion begins:
The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, 35 U. S. C. §100 et seq., establishes a process called “inter partes review.” Under that process, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is authorized to reconsider and to cancel an issued patent claim in limited circumstances. In this case, we address whether inter partes review violates Article III or the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution. We hold that it violates neither.
Justice Gorsuch writes a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, arguing that the statutory scheme violates Article III: “Today’s decision may not represent a rout but it at least signals a retreat from Article III’s guarantees.”
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC, which addresses whether corporations may be liable in actions brought under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. § 1350. It’s a fractured decision, as evidenced by the following notation at the end of the syllabus:
KENNEDY, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II–B–1, and II–C, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, ALITO, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts II–A, II–B–2, II–B–3, and III, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion. ALITO, J., and GORSUCH, J., filed opinions concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, and KAGAN, JJ., joined.
There are 85 pages worth of opinions, but the very brief takeaway (from Part II-B-1 of Justice Kennedy’s opinion, slip op. at 19) is that “absent further action from Congress it would be inappropriate for courts to extend ATS liability to foreign corporations.”
And from Part II-C, slip op. at 27: “Accordingly, the Court holds that foreign corporations may not be defendants in suits brought under the ATS.”
Justice Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion argues that foreign corporations should not be categorically immune from liability under the ATS.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in Wilson v. Sellers, covered earlier here. The Court splits 6-3 over the proper standard for assessing unexplained state court decisions in the context of federal habeas proceedings. Justice Breyer writes the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Gorsuch writes a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito.
Justice Breyer’s majority opinion begins:
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) requires a prisoner who challenges (in a federal habeas court) a matter “adjudicated on the merits in State court” to show that the relevant state-court “decision” (1) “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law,” or (2) “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U. S. C. §2254(d). Deciding whether a state court’s decision “involved” an unreasonable application of federal law or “was based on” an unreasonable determination of fact requires the federal habeas court to “train its attention on the particular reasons—both legal and factual—why state courts rejected a state prisoner’s federal claims,” Hittson v. Chatman, 576 U. S. ___, ___ (2015) (GINSBURG, J., concurring in denial of certiorari) (slip op., at 1), and to give appropriate deference to that decision, Harrington v. Richter, 562 U. S. 86, 101–102 (2011).
When the last state court to address the merits of the petitioner’s claims does not provide any reasons, however, this inquiry is “more difficult.” Here’s what federal the federal habeas court should do:
We hold that the federal court should “look through” the unexplained decision to the last related state-court decision that does provide a relevant rationale. It should then presume that the unexplained decision adopted the same reasoning. But the State may rebut the presumption by showing that the unexplained affirmance relied or most likely did rely on different grounds than the lower state court’s decision, such as alternative grounds for affirmance that were briefed or argued to the state supreme court or obvious in the record it reviewed.
This “look through” approach is different from the one urged by the State (and by the dissenters). That approach would have precluded federal habeas relief as long as a reasonable basis “could have supported” the state court’s rejection of the petitioner’s claims.
The big question going forward will be what is required to rebut the majority’s look-through presumption. One particular issue will be the extent to which the unreasonableness of the looked-through-to lower state court opinion will itself be a basis for rebutting the presumption that the highest state court adopted that same unreasonable reasoning. Justice Breyer indicates that “it is more likely that a state supreme court’s single word ‘affirm’ rests upon alternative grounds where the lower state court decision is unreasonable than, e.g., where the lower court rested on a state-law procedural ground” and that “the unreasonableness of the lower court’s decision itself provides some evidence that makes it less likely the state supreme court adopted the same reasoning.”
Justice Gorsuch’s dissent emphasizes this aspect of the majority opinion, calling it “welcome news of a sort.” He writes: “If, as the Court holds, the ‘look through’ presumption can be rebutted ‘where the lower state court decision is unreasonable,’ it’s hard to see what good it does.” It is not clear that the majority’s opinion goes as far as Justice Gorsuch suggests. But what will be sufficient to rebut the majority’s look-through presumption is likely to be a major issue in the wake of the Court’s decision.
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
This week, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Kisela v. Hughes, reversing the Ninth Circuit without hearing oral argument. From the Court’s per curiam opinion:
Petitioner Andrew Kisela, a police officer in Tucson, Arizona, shot respondent Amy Hughes. Kisela and two other officers had arrived on the scene after hearing a police radio report that a woman was engaging in erratic behavior with a knife. They had been there but a few minutes, perhaps just a minute. When Kisela fired, Hughes was holding a large kitchen knife, had taken steps toward another woman standing nearby, and had refused to drop the knife after at least two commands to do so. The question is whether at the time of the shooting Kisela’s actions violated clearly established law. * * *
Here, the Court need not, and does not, decide whether Kisela violated the Fourth Amendment when he used deadly force against Hughes. For even assuming a Fourth Amendment violation occurred—a proposition that is not at all evident—on these facts Kisela was at least entitled to qualified immunity. * * *
Kisela says he shot Hughes because, although the officers themselves were in no apparent danger, he believed she was a threat to Chadwick. Kisela had mere seconds to assess the potential danger to Chadwick. He was confronted with a woman who had just been seen hacking a tree with a large kitchen knife and whose behavior was erratic enough to cause a concerned bystander to call 911 and then flag down Kisela and Garcia. Kisela was separated from Hughes and Chadwick by a chain-link fence; Hughes had moved to within a few feet of Chadwick; and she failed to acknowledge at least two commands to drop the knife. Those commands were loud enough that Chadwick, who was standing next to Hughes, heard them. This is far from an obvious case in which any competent officer would have known that shooting Hughes to protect Chadwick would violate the Fourth Amendment.
Justice Sotomayor authored a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Ginsburg. The dissent begins:
Officer Andrew Kisela shot Amy Hughes while she was speaking with her roommate, Sharon Chadwick, outside of their home. The record, properly construed at this stage, shows that at the time of the shooting: Hughes stood stationary about six feet away from Chadwick, appeared “composed and content,” Appellant’s Excerpts of Record 109 (Record), and held a kitchen knife down at her side with the blade facing away from Chadwick. Hughes was nowhere near the officers, had committed no illegal act, was suspected of no crime, and did not raise the knife in the direction of Chadwick or anyone else. Faced with these facts, the two other responding officers held their fire, and one testified that he “wanted to continue trying verbal command[s] and see if that would work.” Id., at 120. But not Kisela. He thought it necessary to use deadly force, and so, without giving a warning that he would open fire, he shot Hughes four times, leaving her seriously injured.
If this account of Kisela’s conduct sounds unreasonable, that is because it was. And yet, the Court today insulates that conduct from liability under the doctrine of qualified immunity, holding that Kisela violated no “clearly established” law. See ante, at 5–6. I disagree.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in United States v. Hughes, a case involving how to identify the holding of a Supreme Court decision with no majority opinion. This issue traditionally (or at least for the last 40 years) has been analyzed using the rule from Marks v. United States, which states that the Court’s holding is “the position taken by those Members who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds.” The particular fragmented decision at issue in Hughes is Freeman v. United States, in which the Court split 4-1-4 regarding when certain defendants are eligible to seek a sentence reduction based on a retroactive lowering of the sentencing guidelines.
Here is the transcript from yesterday’s argument. I was particularly interested in this observation by Justice Kagan [on pp.22-23 of the transcript], which occurs during a broader exchange in which Petitioner’s counsel is arguing against an approach to Marks that factors in the reasoning of dissenting Justices:
JUSTICE KAGAN: Well, Mr. Shumsky, I think -- I think your approach relies on dissents sometimes too, because take one of these logical subset cases. You have a concurrence that is a logical subset of the plurality. And you say, well, the concurrence controls. And that's true even as to times where the concurrence splits off with the plurality and joins with the dissent. So you're counting dissents too, I think.
Justice Kagan’s point highlights a concern I raise in my recent essay, Nonmajority Opinions and Biconditional Rules, 128 Yale L.J. F. 1 (2018). Some circuit judges interpreting Freeman have engaged in precisely this kind of reasoning regarding logical subsets, and Justice Kagan is exactly right that such an approach is really one that counts dissenting votes. Accordingly, in my view, to embrace this approach would be a departure from the prevailing understanding of Marks, and it would raise the same concerns that others have identified with allowing dissenting Justices to determine the binding content of Supreme Court decisions.
Three Terms ago, we held that one of multiple cases consolidated for multidistrict litigation under 28 U. S. C. §1407 is immediately appealable upon an order disposing of that case, regardless of whether any of the others remain pending. Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., 574 U. S. ___ (2015). We left open, however, the question whether the same is true with respect to cases consolidated under Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id., at ___, n. 4 (slip op., at 7, n. 4). This case presents that question.
And the answer to that question is yes:
Rule 42(a) did not purport to alter the settled understanding of the consequences of consolidation. That understanding makes clear that when one of several consolidated cases is finally decided, a disappointed litigant is free to seek review of that decision in the court of appeals.
Monday, March 26, 2018
The final version of my essay Nonmajority Opinions and Biconditional Rules, 128 Yale L.J. F. 1 (2018), is out. Here’s the abstract:
In Hughes v. United States, the Supreme Court will revisit a thorny question: how to determine the precedential effect of decisions with no majority opinion. For four decades, the clearest instruction from the Court has been the rule from Marks v. United States: the Court’s holding is “the position taken by those Members who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds.” The Marks rule raises particular concerns, however, when it is applied to biconditional rules. Biconditionals are distinctive in that they set a standard that dictates both success and failure for a given issue. More formulaically, they combine an if-then proposition (If A, then B) with its inverse (If Not-A, then Not-B).
Appellate courts on both sides of the circuit split that prompted the grant of certiorari in Hughes have overlooked the special features of biconditional rules. If the Supreme Court makes the same mistake, it could adopt a misguided approach that would unjustifiably create binding law without a sufficient consensus among the Justices involved in the precedent-setting case. This Essay identifies these concerns and proposes ways to apply Marks coherently to non-majority opinions that endorse biconditional rules.
The Supreme Court hears oral argument in Hughes tomorrow (3/27).
Thursday, March 22, 2018
We covered earlier the Supreme Court’s cert grant in the Salt River case, which presents the question: “Whether orders denying state-action immunity to public entities are immediately appealable under the collateral-order doctrine.” This week, the parties entered into a Stipulation of Dismissal pursuant to Sup. Ct. R. 46, taking the case off the Court’s docket.
Disappointed appellate-jurisdiction junkies may perhaps find solace in the jurisdictional portion of yesterday’s Ayestas decision.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Ayestas v. Davis, which involves a capital habeas petitioner seeking funding for investigative services, as authorized by 18 U.S.C. § 3599. Justice Alito’s opinion concludes that the courts below applied the wrong legal standard in denying Ayestas’s motion for funding and remands for further proceedings to apply the correct legal standard.
First, however, the Court confronts the question of whether appellate courts—including the Supreme Court—have jurisdiction to review a district court’s denial of such a request for funding. Here’s how Justice Alito tees up the issue:
When the District Court denied petitioner’s funding request and his habeas petition, he took an appeal to the Fifth Circuit under 28 U. S. C. §§1291 and 2253, which grant the courts of appeals jurisdiction to review final “decisions” and “orders” of a district court. And when the Fifth Circuit affirmed, petitioner sought review in this Court under §1254, which gives us jurisdiction to review “[c]ases” in the courts of appeals. As respondent correctly notes, these provisions confer jurisdiction to review decisions made by a district court in a judicial capacity. But we have recognized that not all decisions made by a federal court are “judicial” in nature; some decisions are properly understood to be “administrative,” and in that case they are “not subject to our review.” Hohn v. United States, 524 U. S. 236, 245 (1998).
The need for federal judges to make many administrative decisions is obvious. The Federal Judiciary, while tiny in comparison to the Executive Branch, is nevertheless a large and complex institution, with an annual budget exceeding $7 billion and more than 32,000 employees. See Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts, The Judiciary FY 2018 Congressional Budget Summary Revised 9–10 (June 2017). Administering this operation requires many “decisions” in the ordinary sense of the term—decisions about such things as facilities, personnel, equipment, supplies, and rules of procedure. In re Application for Exemption from Electronic Pub. Access Fees by Jennifer Gollan and Shane Shifflett, 728 F. 3d 1033, 1037 (CA9 2013). It would be absurd to suggest that every “final decision” on any such matter is appealable under §1291 or reviewable in this Court under §1254. See Hohn, supra; 15A C. Wright, A. Miller, & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure §3903, pp. 134–135 (2d ed. 1992). Such administrative decisions are not the kind of decisions or orders—i.e., decisions or orders made in a judicial capacity—to which the relevant jurisdictional provisions apply.
The Court concludes that the district court’s funding decision “does not remotely resemble the sort of administrative decisions noted above.” It is therefore subject to appellate review under the usual jurisdictional provisions.
Justice Sotomayor authors a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg, arguing that—under the proper legal standard—“there should be little doubt that Ayestas has satisfied §3599(f)” and is entitled to funding.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Supreme Court decision in Cyan: SLUSA & state court jurisdiction over 1933 Securities Act class actions
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Cyan, Inc. v. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund. In an opinion authored by Justice Kagan, the Court addresses the effect of the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA) on class actions that allege violations of only the Securities Act of 1933 (which governs the original issuance of securities). The defendants argued that SLUSA deprives state courts of jurisdiction over such class actions. The Solicitor General proposed what Justice Kagan called a “halfway-house position,” whereby state courts have jurisdiction but defendants may remove such class actions to federal court.
The Court unanimously rejects both arguments. First, the Court holds that state courts retain jurisdiction over class actions that allege only 1933 Act violations: “SLUSA’s text, read most straightforwardly, leaves in place state courts’ jurisdiction over 1933 Act claims, including when brought in class actions.” Second, the Court holds that when such class actions are filed in state court, they may not be removed to federal court. SLUSA did not exempt such class actions from the general bar on removal currently codified at 15 U.S.C. § 77v(a).